To update an old saying first applied to another entrepreneur: When Peter Thiel talks, people listen.
Since leaving behind his career on Wall Street for the tech scene in California, he's co-founded PayPal, was the first outside investor in Facebook, and also co-founded anti-terrorism software maker Palantir Technologies.
During a video interview with Wharton management professor Adam Grant, which appeared on the business school's blog Knowledge@Wharton, Thiel dissected his book Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future.
In 2012, Thiel taught a class at Stanford on how to start a company. A law student named Blake Masters took notes and began putting them up on a blog. Thiel's 200-page book was born. Below, check out some choice advice Thiel believes can help entrepreneurs build their own company.
1. Don't waste time competing with others.
In Thiel's chapter "All Happy Companies Are Different," he writes about why companies shouldn't compete with one another. As The Wall Street Journal described his advice, "Competition is for losers." Thiel doesn't say as much, but while speaking to Grant, he breaks down why competition can hinder discovery. "What happens when you compete is you are always just focusing on the people around you, on the people already doing what is deemed valuable by other people," Thiel says. "You often lose sight of building things that are one of a kind, different, and truly valuable. The next Bill Gates will not start an operating system. The next Larry Page won’t start a search engine. The next Mark Zuckerberg won’t start a social network company. If you are copying these people, you are not learning from them. If you are competing against these people, or you think you are competing with these people, you are actually trying to copy them, and again, you are not learning from them."
2. Start a good monopoly.
When you're dreaming up business models, you want to offer it all. "From the point of view of a founder or entrepreneur," Thiel says to Grant, "you want your company to always be a monopoly. You want to be offering something to the world that no one else is offering and, therefore, you have some really healthy profit margins around your business. From the inside, I would argue monopoly is always a good thing. That's what every entrepreneur should attempt to build."
He says that monopolies deserve their bad reputations, especially when an organization serves only as a "rent collector or toll collector," but a company like Apple, especially when it built and sold its first iPhone, is a good monopoly that "does not create artificial scarcity. It is creating something new and doing something that is good for society as well."
3. Start a company with people you know.
Thiel says the worst founding team he can imagine is composed of two people who just met and have never worked with each other before, who dreamed up an idea because they both want to be entrepreneurs. He says a founding team needs chemistry, history, and experience. When thinking about starting a company with someone, you need to know how the person works, what makes the person tick, and how that person acts under pressure.
"One of the PayPal rules that I find to be very true is that these companies often work well if the people have known each other for a long time or there's some good prehistory," Thiel tells Grant. "Whenever I talk to people who founded a company, I often like to ask the prehistory questions 'When did you meet? How long have you been working before you started the company?' A bad answer is, 'We met at a networking event a week ago, and we started a company because we both want to be entrepreneurs.' A good answer is, 'We were in college together for four or five years, working on this, thinking about this. I'm more on the business side. The other person is more on the tech side,' or something like that."
Check out the full video with Wharton management professor Adam Grant below.